[Write On] Listen Up and Get In Formation

We’ve started the year with two cultural schools of thought, on one hand there’s the loud and slightly ridiculous Stacey Dash phenomenon and on the other, we have the #OscarsSoWhite. So thank goodness that the Queen is back to shake things up and push us forward, Queen B that is. This past weekend, just the day before her highly anticipated Super Bowl collaboration with Coldplay and Bruno Mars, Beyonce dropped the world on it’s head with the release of her latest empowered single,’Formation’.  More than just a song, ‘Formation’ is a statement – ‘Formation’ is a movement;  ‘Formation’ is an ode to the rise of Black Feminine Energy – and it’s time to get in line.

Let me back up for a second.

After 31 years on this pseudo-green Earth, I’d be kidding myself if I didn’t admit that the ideas of race, ethnicity, cultural adversity and then diversity run rampant in my veins. If you are who you surround yourself by, I’m socio-culturally middle class, with a multicultural twist. Minority Report, Oreo, Chocolate Sprinkle. My nicknames say it all, but it runs deeper.  When standardized tests were distributed in school, I always took longer than everyone else figuring out which box to check for ethnicity – what if I didn’t see my box? Does that mean I didn’t matter – do I not count? Can I check more than one box?  Where do I fit in here?

The multiracial, only child of a split family, I always had issues reconciling my ethnic and cultural backgrounds, and the notion that they might invariable be two different identities were always kept at bay.  Remember Sun In? That shit turned my hair bright orange, not to mention warnings about sunscreen never seemed to apply to me.  When my dad remarried to my step mom and the three of us would go out together, people would infer I was adopted; fast forward twenty years later, and they mistake my fiance for their son.

Spot the Amanda

 

Silicon Valley born and raised, I grew up in the tiny and incredibly educated suburb of Menlo Park with my mom, and Palo Alto then Los Altos with my father. They were nice areas to be raised in and all that jazz, but let’s get one thing real for a second, they’re not the most diverse areas of the country; in fact they’re pretty monotone, sometimes painfully so. Whether it was with family, or in social endeavors, I always felt like the technicolor sheep of the family – never fitting in and always standing out.

Mentally, sonically, emotionally, I grew up in a boombox, self-identifying with Hip-hop and rap, including Janet Jackson’s anthemic Rhythm Nation 1814; but academically and socially, I attended programs where, in one way or another, I was the diversity. Whether it was attending Castilleja Middle School during the academic year, or their BRIDGE Program over the Summer, I wavered between a drop of milk in oil and a drop of oil in milk; an ever ebbing cascade of racial complexities that arose from a bi-cultural background that up until that age hadn’t been explored. Then, by the time I transferred back into Public School as a Junior in High School, Menlo Atherton High School had gotten national recognition with a center spread in ‘Teen People” as the most diverse yet segregated High School in America.

Serendipitous to consider it now, but it was around that same time that Destiny’s Child came out with their debut, self-titled album.  In a moment where I couldn’t find a cultural footing, somehow, with them, I found resonance, a voice, a mainstream media identity – or in my eyes, hope.  At 16, while away at an out of town basketball tournament, I walked into the room while several of my teammates were discussing their disgust with interracial relationships.  As I slowly sulked into the shadows, shuddering at each syllable, I faintly but distinctly overheard the words “…they shouldn’t be allowed to marry, and definitely shouldn’t be allowed to have children.”  My heart and ego sank in time as my head hung low for the duration of the tournament.  After, in an effort to reconnect to my roots, my aunt escorted me to a seminar in Los Angeles for Young African American Women; around the same time, I became a camp counselor in West Menlo Park and was quickly adopted under the wing of East Menlo Park’s more diverse subset of counselors where I became a master domino player, learned the proper way to eat fried chicken, not to mention the difference between sweet potato pie and pumpkin pie.  And in whatever down time I could muster, I buried my head in multicultural literature from James McBride’s The Color of Water to timely tomes from Danzy Senna, Caucasia and Symptomatic.

Combined, the ideas drilled in my head lead me to believe the next large sociocultural revolution would be a mixed race revolution, and we would be leading at the helm. But invariably, the events themselves, made me feel even more alone.  It was then, that the idea was finally and formally drilled into my head that there was a difference between being genetically ‘African American‘ and culturally Black.

Beyond the entertainment value, viral witticisms masquerading as lyrics and a host of regal outfits – the video  contains a not so subtle history lesson delivered with a passionate one two punch in under five minutes.  Starting with  emotional imagery and vocals that ask ‘What happened in New Orleans‘, Formation’ delves into the modern Black experience,  exploring the nuanced variety of genetic variability. Cascading through Southern cityscapes and landscapes, including estates and plantations, ‘Formation‘ offers a bevvy of emotional imagery: a cop car – and city -underwater,  a breakdancing toddler stalling a line of police with their hands in the air, ‘Stop Shooting Us’ haphazardly spray painted on an otherwise barren wall and coordinated feminine empowerment.

Imagery that grew only stronger with her performance the next day at the Super Bowl’s halftime show; decked out in gear halfway reminiscent of the 1970’s Black Panther movement spliced with Janet’s Rhythm Nation video, Beyonce urged a generation to mobilize and get in ‘Formation’.  The end result was a provocative performance of a ‘visual anthem‘ sure to live in cultural infamy.

Fast forward to three days later, and you’ll meet exactly what’s wrong with this country and could invariably elect someone as ignorant as Donald Trump; In light of the controversial dance ‘Formations’ and dress during her performance invoking the Black Panther Party, Malcolm X and supposed dissent against the police -not to mention a display of their own cultural ignorance – protesters are heading to NFL’s New York Headquarters on February 18th . Not only have people willfully avoided history textbooks or contextualizing social issues like the suffrage and civil rights movement, but on top of that their ignorance has become ego driven arrogance; and I’m not sure what frustrates me more – an echoed rhetoric that minorities, especially women, are only here to entertain and not educate, or the idea that people are more offended by the message of the song than the actions that drove the creation of this performance.

I’ll be the first to admit that I never paid much attention in my European History classes and found most of my United States history courses beyond boring; but when it came to the Civil Rights Movement, I had an uncanny desire to devour all available knowledge. And I know this: The Black Panther Party was made of revolutionaries that fought for a culture that had been undermined for their entire cultural history to be recognized as equal.  Yes, they were born out of the failed non-violent Civil Rights Movement of MLK Jr and Medgar Evers but the movement didn’t promote violence, it promoted fairness while protecting the community from the racist behaviors of others while simultaneously pushing citizens to police the police – an idea that is still echoed in today’s society.

To the calls of it’s Football and not Hollywood, last time I listened to Sportscetnter I got a whole earful about girlfriends and wives, houses and style; things that invariable have jack all to do with competitive sports.  And now, we’re taking a critique to a traditionally all white variety of Halftime Entertainment.  So for a second, let’s talk about the NFL.  Let’s discuss the amount of sex crimes and prostitution rings that are cracked down on during high profile games every year, the egregious amount of drunk drivers that get into accidents leaving games or the fact that from start to finish, NFL games are riddled with advertisements parading the US Military as a revered enterprise. Yet a five minute segment that gives weight to a population more often misrepresented and underrepresented in mainstream media receives a bevvy of backlash? It’s time that people get their priorities in formation

[LA Life] CERB Brings Their Fall Plant Sale to Eagle Rock City Hall on 11/7

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Known throughout the community for their eco-friendly initiatives and local landscape beautification projects, the Collaborative Eagle Rock Beautiful (CERB) is delighted to host their annual Fall plant sale on Saturday November 7th, 2015 at Eagle Rock City Hall.

From 9AM to 4PM, CERB invites the community to an informative fair focused on drought resistant  landscaping. With current drought restrictions, native plants and succulents can reduce residential water footprints by 60-90% while preserving resources such as soil, fertilizer and pesticides.  

Featuring a wide assortment of California natives and succulents, many plants featured at the Fall Plant Sale are locally sourced and harvested in Eagle Rock by CERB volunteers, students at Occidental College and members of the community.  A post-Halloween treat for the whole family, the plant fair features a Kids Zone full of children friendly activities as well as a variety of food trucks and other local entertainment.  All proceeds of the Fall Plant Sale will go to Collaborative Eagle Rock Beautiful to assist their local efforts of neighborhood maintenance and support their annual projects.  

Event Details:
Saturday, 11/7/15 from 9am to 4pm
Eagle Rock City Hall
2035 Colorado Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90041

Since 2001, CERB has cemented its status as a local resource while working towards lasting change throughout the neighborhood.  Yearly events for CERB include neighborhood events such as A Taste of Eagle Rock, the maintenance of the Eagle Rock Canyon Hiking Trails and the promotion of drought resistant landscaping through active work on major street medians like Colorado and Eagle Rock Boulevard.

Join the Facebook event here and invite the neighbors.

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For more on CERB and their Fall Plant Sale, connect on social media:  

Website | Facebook | Twitter

About Collaborative Eagle Rock Beautiful

The Collaborative Eagle Rock Beautiful was established in 2001 by longtime Eagle Rock residents John Stillion and Esther Monk.  With almost two decades of service in the neighborhood, CERB has evolved into an esteemed non-profit organization fueled by local volunteers and resources for a homegrown effort in reducing fiscal dependence of city-funded maintenance programs. Curated within the community to discourage the removal of native trees, preserve local open space and inspire cohesive drought tolerant landscaping, CERB is devoted to leaving a lasting legacy through both action and awareness.

[I Can’t Breathe] Race Relations in 21st Century America

Growing up, I was always cognizant on some basic level that my life was different than my peers; I felt psychologically befuddled by my social experiences and more or less like an emotional and physical outcast.  Sure, there was the fact I towered over my friends at 6′ by the time I was leaving elementary school – or that my penchant for math problems superseded those around me. Dressing up for Halloween, I was teased for my Pipi Longstocking and Belle costumes, and over the moon when Jasmine and Mulan became Disney princesses. In middle school, I tried using sun-in, my hair turned bronze; my mom and I frequented an African American hair salon in Palo Alto – Mixed Media, if you want to be specific – and one Summer, we tried relaxing my hair; instead of being easier to straighten, it got brittle, crimped and was more or less destroyed. My skin didn’t burn, instead it evened out into a shade of nutmeg, spotted with dark freckles around my nose.  There’s thinking you’re different, but for me – it was more than that; I knew I was different.

My parents got together in the Bay Area during the 70s; in a time of free love, open minds and radical change.  A goofy, gangley Jewish man from Oregon and a formidable genius from Compton, they met matching wits at Stanford and to this day, haven’t stopped. At the time, the two sides of the family had starkly different responses; my mom’s sister lamented ‘But, you couldn’t find a nice Black one?’ while my dad’s father, founder of the Corvallis chapter of the NAACP, couldn’t be more excited about my mom being part of the family.  Their reactions were opposite, but equal – each painfully aware of the state of race relations in America.

A nation divided by external and negligible traits like socio-ecoonmic status, levels of education and the color of our skin, those with power are busy tearing neighborhoods apart with closed fists and closed minds instead of building our brothers and sisters up with open arms.  Over-militarized and by in large, uneducated, police forces roam city streets in militia formation, filling tension filled streets with former war weapons and palpable, cultural fear.

As a society overglamorized by the news and undereducated by what’s important on a human, spiritual level, we’re so busy putting our community – friends, family, peers, celebrities and strangers alike – into boxes, confirming and or denying formidable existence and their overall importance that some can forget – we’re all members of the human race. As a law of differences and similarities, I might not be much like my Asian sisters and Australian brothers on the other side of Earth – but we’re certainly, undeniably more similar than I am to my cat, or to a rug, or a piece of grass.

I’m a human, an multicultral member of society;
I’m an American and I can’t breathe.

We’re a multicultural melting pot drowning under the repressive regimes of the powerfully ignorant;
and we can’t breathe. 

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Culturally, the compounding of our spotted, racially fueled past has slowly but surely led us here. It’s not that what’s happened recently is new news; African Americans historically have been disproportionately targeted, arrested and gunned down in the name of ignorant police work for decades. And now, within the span of less than two weeks, not just one – but two – police officers have gotten off on non-indictments in Federal Court cases for killing unarmed African American civilians. It’s become increasingly clear where those in power stand, people of a darker skin color, lower economic or academic rank are demonized while policemen, with their overrightous sense of power and what now appears as contempt for their human brothers, are held to outrageously different standards.

Much like the aftermath of the Fergason protests, last night 223 protesters were arrested in New York City for demanding equality, fairness and the essential staples this country was built upon.  The gentleman who captured the video of Eric Garner was charged with a crime.  But, the policeman who killed him with unnecessary and lethal force – he wasn’t even indicted on a crime, in the same manner that Michael Brown’s killer was set free, sans charge.  What it sends is an unfortunate message, historically echoed throughout minority communities: our lives matter less than others; we matter less than others. The way our justice system works it shouldn’t be much of a surprise, albeit an unfortunate one: instead of maintaining a system of checks and balances, with prosecutors and policemen working side by side in the same office, there’s only one system, and it’s busy keeping itself in check.

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Newton’s third law of motion is that for every action, there’s an equal and opposite reaction – and right now, there are citizens in each and every corner of the nation that are finally inspired, through outrage, frustration and passionate persistence, to exact change on their external world. Peaceful protest, Non Violent Actions, Rallies – they’re not the end all; but they’re most certainly the means to an end – and people are listening.

On Monday, President Obama announced an executive order consisting of 50,000 body cameras for the nations 630,000 strong police force. After the outcome of the Garner case, it’s easy to argue that video cameras don’t do enough – but without this camera evidence, do you honestly believe that our streets would be full of protests and our cities would come to a standstill? In a recent news conference, Mayor De Blasio of New York City has demanded that the 20,000 member  police force undergo mandated retraining on the use of lethal force as well as community awareness.  As it turns out, most police officers across the country work in a different county than they live in – meaning that they most definitely don’t serve ‘the community.’ But when body cameras can be turned off, and the police can return to work after their mandated seminars – where does that really leave our nation? We need immense reform from both the top down and the bottom up.  California’s set the tone by passing Prop 47, decriminalizing non violent offenses and lessening the bulging prison population, and an assorted number of states have legalized marijuana – decreasing the amount of nonviolent crimes and offenders.  On top of that, there’s the issue of for profit prisons, some of which need a 90-100% retention rate to stay in business.

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We’re stopping traffic to beg for equality, we’re staging protests, wielding signs and standing strong as a community because we refuse to be silenced any longer. So go, find your voice, wage your peaceful protests and non violent wars, because until we’re heard – as a nation, as part of the human race – we can’t breathe.

[Write On] Astronomical Achievements and Cultural Failures

Early Wednesday morning, the ESA’s Rosetta Space Mission landed Space Craft Philae semi-gracefully on a comet (it might have bounced a kilometer off the comet first…), and it’s managed to blast through space while holding tight, sending images mid-flight for the world to see.   It’s novel, unprecedented and amazing – this marks the first time a spacecraft has landed at the center of a comet and it’s been a long time coming.File:Comet 67P on 19 September 2014 NavCam mosaic.jpg A lonely fellow, flitting around the Universe for at least the last Four Billion Years, Comet 67P was first discovered back in 1969 by Soviet Astronomers Svetlana Gerasimenko and Klim Churyumov; thus dubbed – Comet ’67 P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.’

And now, 45 years later, their hard work has paid off: Philae is set to probe it’s way into Comet 67P, analyzing everything it can about the comet’s iidentity- details about the comet’s atmosphere, physical terrain and chemical composition.  Both Philae and the Rosetta Mission have been beaming back unbelievable images of the comet, and the vast depths of the universe; but that’s not even the coolest thing to me. My favorite part of the discovery has been the fact this comet sings! Yes, that’s right – it’s been jamming out for millions of years and now we can listen in!   How’s this even possible? Well, there are oscillations in the comet’s magnetic field that sit around 40 to 50 millihertz. Though it’s unable to hear by human ears alone, scientists from the ESA have increased the frequency 10,000x to make it audible. 

But, you probably didn’t hear about that, because you know: ASS.

Kim Kardashian’s ass, if you’d like to get specific. Now, first things first I’m not trying to debase or discredit the booty – in fact, praise the booty; that is a fine specimen.  And, for all us ladies that lack the necessary junk in and around the trunk, I’m glad there’s someone out there that knows how to (a) respect her body and (b) celebrate her body.  Now, to the critics: Photoshop, and other retouching applications, are a widely used resource in the digital marketing world and it’s silly to think otherwise. Not that I don’t see the correlations between the Jean Paul Gaude’s photo shoot with Grace Jones and Kim K – give me a break; I would give my right arm to recreate this amazing shot.  And for the uproar and the hoopla circulating about the photo shoot and the tirades and charades around her love of nude modeling: why is what an individual does with their body more interesting or exciting than SPACE EXPLORATION?

Comet 67P

[LA Life] Drought & A Push Towards Eco-Friendly Landscaping

IMG_1770.JPGBetween the weeks of eternal Summer and an absent Winter, months of sunshine and not a whole lot of rain – it’s understandable why there’s a fairly popular misnomer around town that Los Angeles is in the desert.  With conditions ripe for avocados, lemons and olives – we’re actually considered a Mediterranean Climate with varied seasonal change (yes, we do have seasons!). One thing we don’t boast about very often is being part of an elite 2%: Los Angeles – down into North Western Baja California – is one of only five places in the world with such a climate. The other four being Central Chile, Southern Australia, South Western South Africa and the Mediterranean itself.droughtgif

Unlike those other climates, ours here has been suffering from this overbearing and unrelenting drought; and it’s not just Los Angeles that’s in trouble,California has officially entered an unprecedented fourth year of severe drought.  Over the past few months as Danny and I have traversed California and the Greater Pacific North West from Oregon to Washington and
Canada, I’ve witnessed firsthand how low our water reservoir’s are and just how volatile fire season has become.  It’s not only ecologically detrimentally, but on a personal level it’s heartbreaking to see just how far this drought has gone.  A considerable portion of the state’s economy comes from the farms that line Central California, and the drought threatens the farmer’s way of life as well as their crops.

The answer is simple: water less, conserve more.  

Click Through to Original MIC Article With More Pics

At the end of September, there was even a ginormous slip and slide slated to swing through multiple blocks of downtown Los Angeles – something that admittedly I’d been looking forward to for a while.  Fortunately, or unfortunately – depending on what personal feelings you’d invested in the event – it was cancelled due equal parts passionate citizens, as well as the intensity and duration of our water situation. .

There are small things we can do on a household by household basis like watering your lawn less, flushing less, ensuring larger loads of laundry to reduce the item to water ratio, not taking baths, hell – showering together saves water, too. A man’s home is his sanctuary, which is why this last pill might be difficult to swallow – but last and certainly not least, there’s the manicured maintenance of our yards and lawns.  Between my mother and my step-mother, I might not have grown up with a green thumb but I was definitely heavily influenced by them.  At each and every turn at my mom’s in Menlo Park were bountiful bushes of lavender, roses, and marigolds – while my dad’s in Palo Alto then Los Altos always had lush grass, towering trees, well maintained bushes. But that’s a novelty, and there were enough rainy seasons to substantiate the foliage – fast forward to 2014, and that’s simply not the case anymore.

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Lawns: A Thing of the Past?

At a local level, there are equal amounts of incentives to become eco-friendly as there are to simply conserve water.  For those caught over watering and abusing, Los Angeles will slap you on the wrist with a hefty $500 fine.  On the other hand, if you’re willing to make the shift towards an South Western, Desert – or just plain dirt landscape, the city is willing to pay $3 a square foot under the California Friendly Landscape Incentives Program. On average, that’s a nice chunk of change for the conversion – at least few thousand dollars for the yard.  As of last Summer, 850 residences around the city had made the shift and it’s projected that the numbers have tripled since.

Running around the neighborhood, I’ve started to notice which homes use and abuse the almost depleted supply of water and which homes are doing it right – replacing grass with gravel, stone or even dirt as an ode to South Western, Desert and Ecofriendly landscaping.So far, only one home a block on average has made the conscious conversion. I hope that by raising more awareness of our current ecological state, more question and follow suit. These are some of the houses  in my area that are doing it right.

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If you’re interested in joining the trend – it’s super simple to follow, easy to maintain and so great for the environment.  For starters, mulch, stone, gravel and tanbark can be used for walking paths in leu of grass. California local plants and flowers like the California Holly (Toyon), Concha Lilac, Deer Grass and Tree Mallow require little to moderate water to maintain and are beautiful additions to your property.  If you’d like to go one deeper, succulents and air plants are excellent alternatives to traditional, more water nourished plants.  Succulents are on the thicker side when it comes to stalks and leaves, but that’s because of the amount of water the succulents retain. Air plants, on the other hand, don’t need any dirt and can pull moisture straight from the air.

[Write On] The Community Service Challenge

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Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock that’s under a rock, your social media – and news – feeds have been bombarded and taken over by the ‘ALS Ice Bucket Challenge‘.  The basic premise of the challenge goes like this: once dared, you have 24 hours (some give you 48) to either donate money to the cause, or create a video where by some means or another a bucket of ‘ice water’ gets dumped on your head; then you pass it along.  I’ve had all sorts of feelings about the challenge – from cheering on celebrities to laughing at failed attempts, to wondering “Why ALS?” to an honest  “Why?” in general.  Until I was dared by a friend to take part of the challenge last week, I decided to bite my lip, hold my tongue and watch how it all played out…but now that I’ve done, and donated, I feel like I have a leg to stand on as far as my opinion is concerned. But, before I get into it – let’s back up a bit.

ALS (Amyotrophic  lateral sclerosis) is a terrible Neurodegenerative Disease that slowly breaks down nerve cells, preventing signals from being sent to muscles – eventually, causing muscle and neurological degeneration while hardening the spinal cord.   Here’s a few more basic statistics about ALS while we’re at it

No one can sit here and deny the success or merits of the campaign – in fact, it’s genius: let’s crowdsource for a cause. When the ‘Ice Bucket Challenge’ was first created, it wasn’t a charity specific phenomenon – it was for all charities (something I think we could all get behind if that was the message), and the message was loud and clear – let’s raise our social awareness, promote viral education, and fund the necessary research.  But now, here we are – California’s in the midst of it’s largest drought ever, there are 800 Million people throughout the world that have no access to clean water, Ferguson has become a civil rights nightmare, don’t get me started on the Middle East and ISIS…and we’re standing around, arguing the merits of  dumping buckets of ice on our heads. Think about the message we’re sending – and what’s being received on the other end;  through a game of proverbial telephone played out via viral videos – the actual dialogue or message about ALS and altruism alike have been lost – all that remains seems to be the ego.

As far as ALS is concerned – the Ice Bucket Challenge has become an international sensation; within a week, $10 Million in donations quickly catapulted to the almost $90 Million they had as of this morning.  Judging by the exponential growth of the cause, it could very well break into the $100 Million mark by the end of this week, if not sooner. To boot, thousands upon thousands of people who would’ve never known what the acronym stood are spreading the word, educating themselves and acting in step with a great ca have their social circles fighting together for a great cause. So now, you might be thinking: it’s bringing people together, it’s getting the word out there.  But, some of the videos as of late have completely forgotten that there even was a cause beyond their own momentary internet popularity.

Then take a step back, and let’s rebrand it as a ‘Charity Challenge’: you pick your charity, you let your peers pick theirs – and the community service aspect truly can make it’s way back to the community.  At any time, any of the people participating in the ALS-IBC could’ve picked a different charity for their contribution – I did; I also donated to ALS.  Charity is a veritical on the branch of Altruism – the belief or practice of selfless concern for the well-being of others. When you’re concerned for the well-being of others, there isn’t an incentive attached – or, a bucket full of ice water, or 15 minutes of viral fame.  No one should necessitate attention or praise to do something as simple as writing a check, especially for those that’ve already reached celebrity status.  One thing that I understand, when you’re a star – actions speak louder than words, and viral videos – doubly so.  But when the message is take the bucket, or donate – I’m begging for a byline that reads: I did both!  

I’m not touting, doubting or shaming the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge – in fact, I hope that all other charities can find a similar model to follow (…that doesn’t destroy resources.)  Regardless of how everyone feels about it, we’re all sitting around – talking about it; and that’s the point, right? I’m more aware than I was before I got this dare; I hope you all are now, too.  I’m also aware of a vast redistribution of wealth that has to take place in this country so that certain diseases, disorders and charities can continue doing the good work they’ve set out to do – and that reaches far beyond ALS.  Athletes, movie stars, singers, writers and the other media mavens out there have something precious that the rest of us don’t – a voice; with great power comes great responsibility and I hope more start using it to raise their voice for awareness.

Lots of people are doing it wrong:

And these guysare doing it right:

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Charlie Sheen’s Ice Bucket Challenge

Matt Damon has a different take on the ‘Ice Bucket Challenge’

If you can’t tell by now – no, I didn’t make a video; and even if I did, beyond my cats I don’t have anything to show.  There’s no ice, no bucket, no water – instead, I donated – and wanted to impart some wisdom that I took away.  Instead of spending our mental energy making a video – or bashing a good cause – we could be converting this potential energy that we all have into something active, kinetic and helpful around our neighborhoods.

Do what you can, with what you have, for the people you care about –  whether it’s family, friends, your community…or all of the above.  Donate to your favorite cause, protest against a bad one, volunteer at a homeless shelter, read to kids at the local library, hang out at animal shelters to walk the dogs and hang out in the cat rooms, find a charity that your work gives back to, or run a marathon for charity.  Don’t be afraid to be proud of your work, but make sure you do it because you care, because you want the world to be healed and whole, and most of all – because you can.

If you’re still looking for places to donate – here are a few links:

Donate Water

World Wildlife Fund (WWF)

American Red Cross

ALS

American Society of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA)

Legalizing Psychedelic Therapy

 


 

And not that it matters, but here’s where I donated.

 

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[Self Discovery] The 10 Things Great Minds Do For Each Other

In everyone’s life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit.
– Albert Schweitzer 

Our twenties is a time of self-exploration and discovery. It’s a  rite of passage and mental manifest destiny we’re all forced to come to terms with once we enter “the real world” and figure out what it means to be a contributing member of the community, or on a more global scale – a contributing member of the human race. These are the years that we change jobs, cities, significant others, interests and musical taste as frequently as we change socks.  Just like there are laws of physics, there are also laws in the physics of our mentality: external change catalyzes internal change and propagates our growth as individual.  We need to remember that it’s not selfish to take an adjustment period to get reacquainted with your life, it’s honest; because if you can’t take a moment’s appreciation for your newly acquired situation – was there really a point?

As we work our way back into the folds of life, back into social circles and bar scenes – you have a unique opportunity to look at things with a fresh perspective. Sometimes, that perspective pulls you out of prior relationships as it pulls you into new ones – and it’s helpful to know what qualities to keep around in a person, and what to avoid.  I’ve seen (and read) a heaping dose of articles on toxic friendships lately, and just like a regular friendship – that’s a two way street, too. Whether it’s actively toxic, or passively toxic (read: enabling).For a toxic friendship to persist, both parties have to be engaging in toxic behavior.  If you’re an emotional hypochondriac and sit there using those traits as a litmus test, solemnly and discretely analyzing your relationships – you’ll probably think there’s at least one person in your world that’s ‘detrimental to your existence‘.  Instead of trying to find the negative, I want to look at the positive; if small minds tear each other down, great minds should build each other up. So, I’ve come up with a little list of qualities that you should both look for in others and manifest in yourself.

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The 10 Things Great Minds Do For Each Other

1. Encourage Growth

A good friend not only accepts you for who you are but challenges you to become the person you want to be (not the person that they want you to be) by allowing you to challenge the limits of  your comfort zone.

2. Focus on the Positive

Life follows a stereotypical pattern of twists and turns that translate into a sine curve of highs and lows. We need to both celebrate our victories and acknowledge when things aren’t up to par – but unless you’re actively working on improving something in yourself, marinating on the negative isn’t going to get you anywhere but stuck in a negative feedback cycle.  And they’re as equally detrimental to ourselves as the people around us.  Humans aren’t magnets. Negative doesn’t attract positive; positive attracts positive; you’ll get back from the universe exactly what you put into it.

3. Allow You to be Wrong

As a species, we don’t have all the answers yet – so it’s silly to think that any one individual does, either. We need to allow ourselves to be wrong in the pursuit of what is right – through empirical evidence and healthy, intelligent debate with our peers.

4. Laugh With You, Not at You

First things first, your friends should have a sense of humor.  If they don’t, there actually might be something wrong with them and you should probably should just stop talking to them all together.  Anyways, I digress. Funny happens all the time and I’ve actually laughed out loud at myself before, but when a friend actively pursues a facet of your life for their enjoyment, it might be time to cut them loose.  A good friend can find humor in the moment, but knows how to let it go and not project the humor onto you.

5. Emotionally Supportive

When life turns sour, it helps having people around that bring over vodka when all you have are lemons.  But, depending on the situation – some friends might become Negative Nancy and have nothing nice to say, a few will turn the conversation to their life and their problems (which of course, still matter – but this isn’t the time or place for it) and others will simply dip out of your life.  The positive influences in your life will find a way to give – whether its their ear, a shoulder to cry on or a couch to sleep on and silence is golden, especially when someone is at their most vulnerable.

6. Give Space When Necessary

When Galileo discovered that there was a flaw in the geocentric model, there was an uproar.  Sometimes, when people come to the realization that the world is about more than just them, they react the same way.  Everyone has a personal universe to deal with that we simply can’t know everything about.it.  We have to learn to respect boundaries and allow the people in our lives to cultivate their own worlds.

7.  Brainstorm Solutions

One of the greatest things about having a group of peers is that you get to constantly crowdsource solutions. Is your boss being too hard on you? How do you train for a marathon? Should you move to a new city?  These are all things we deal with in our life and we should feel confident that we can reach out to the people in our lives in search of our own answers.  A good friend will engage you and play devil’s advocate to get down to the root of your question.

8. Constructive Criticism

It’s okay to have an standpoint on a person, and often there’s a time and place to voice it – but unless you can find a proactive way to express it, you should probably keep it to yourself.  If you’re forming a negative opinion on someone’s life, make sure it’s not a mirror that you’re holding to your own.  Instead, take a step back from the friendship and really examine what’s bothering you.

9. Value Time

Time is valuable, and other people’s time – doubly so.  A good friend understands that everyone has their own time table and own rate of life, we simply don’t all move at the same pace in life.  So, when it comes to hanging out and getting together – they’ll let you know when they’re running late and are conscious that your time matters, too.

10. Inspire Greatness

We’re all made of stardust, and I truly believe that within each of us – there’s something amazing.  When a beautiful soul meets another, they burn brighter together – just like when two candles meet.  They listen to your ambitions, goals and lofty visions. Instead of diminishing you, or them, they’ll encourage you to chase down your dreams and convert them to reality.

I hope you guys all have friends in your life like this, because I know I do.

Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art….
It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things that give value to survival.
– C.S. Lewis –